WASHINGTON Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's legitimacy is all but gone and the world needs more unity on how to deal with his crackdown against anti-government protests, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.
Syrian forces killed at least 13 civilians in the central town of Rastan on Thursday, activists said, in the latest military assault to try to crush a revolt against Assad's 11-year rule.
While noting the United States and its European allies have imposed sanctions on Syria since the uprising three months ago, Clinton hinted at the reluctance of other U.N. Security Council members, notably China and Russia, to take action.
"Right now, the attitude of the international community is not as united as we are seeking to make it. We do not yet have the agreement by some of the other members of the Security Council," Clinton said in an allusion to China and Russia.
Russia and China have so far objected to a European-proposed draft Security Council resolution that would condemn Syria for its crackdown. China warned on Tuesday that such a resolution could harm stability in Syria.
"Those who we are seeking to bring to our view of the situation I think will have to make their own judgment, but we think they will be better off on the right side of history," she added.
"The international community has to continue to make its strongest possible case and call for specific actions like -- not just an announcement of an amnesty -- but a release of political prisoners, the end to unjust detentions, allow human rights monitors into the country," she said.
Clinton suggested U.S. patience with Assad is exhausted but stopped short of explicitly calling for him to step down.
"The legitimacy that is necessary for anyone to expect change to occur under this current government is, if not gone, nearly run out," Clinton told reporters at a news conference.
"If he's not going to lead the reform, he needs to get out of the way," she said. "Where he goes, that's up to him."
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Andrew Quinn, Editing by Sandra Maler)